Thursday, November 5, 2015

Musings: Undue Outside Influence

Tax returns are making it clear that mainland-based nonprofit groups and foundations heavily — and improperly — influenced efforts to adopt anti-GMO legislation in Hawaii, especially Kauai.

The Oakland, Calif.-based Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) spent $1.7 million on “joint campaigns achieving bans and restrictions on highly hazard (sic) pesticides" in Hawaii and Minnesota in 2013. According to its federal tax Form 990 for 2013, which is the most recent year available:
In 2013-14, our successes included: 1) helping the community of Kauai, Hawaii, win and defend a policy requiring public pesticide use reporting and notices, particularly for experimental planting of genetically engineered crops.

PANNA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which has strict limits on lobbying. The IRS guidelines state:

An organization will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if it contacts, or urges the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation. Organizations may, however, involve themselves in issues of public policy without the activity being considered as lobbying.

PANNA, which funded and hosted the “stop poisoning paradise” website and sent at least one agent to testify before the Kauai County Council, among other activities, clearly engaged in lobbying.

What's more, in its tax return, PANNA deceptively tries to pass off Bill 2491 — Kauai's GMO-pesticide regulatory bill — as a “policy.” However, it is most certainly legislation, as defined by the IRS:

Legislation includes action by Congress, any state legislature, any local council, or similar governing body, with respect to acts, bills, resolutions, or similar items...

But PANNA doesn't play fast and loose only with the IRS. The Hews Media Group-Community News reported that PANNA violated California tax law by failing to list expenses for each program, and one of its former directors, Martha Guzman-Aceves, “intentionally filed false documents with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), concealed hundreds of thousands of dollars, and omitted third-party relationships [including her affiliation with PANNA] that directly conflict with her position as a California Deputy Legislative Secretary.”

Although their own activities are far from transparent, these are the folks who scream loudly for full disclosure by others. While PANNA's 2013 Form 990 does not give us a truly accurate picture of the full extent of their Kauai expenditures, it is illuminating.

And then there's the Center for Food Safety, another nonprofit that helped to draft and promote Bill 2491 and is now engaged in defending the legislation, which was overturned by a federal judge, through the appeals process.

CFS will not disclose its donors. But a search of foundation tax returns led to this partial list of CFS donors, who in 2013 contributed $2,487,537:

Ceres Trust (Judith Kern & Kent Whealy) $565,000
Ceres Foundation (Judith Kern & Kent Whealy) $500,000
Schmidt Family Foundation (Wendy/Eric Schmidt, Google) $250,000
William Zimmerman Foundation (Fairfield, Iowa) $160,000
Cornerstone Campaign (Mary & Abby Rockefeller) $150,000
Schwab Charitable Fund (San Francisco, CA) $135,250
David B. Gold Foundation (San Francisco, CA) $125,000
Goldman Sachs Charitable Gift Fund $100,000   
Tides Foundation (3 grants to CFS/Navdanya Trust) $85,000
CS Fund (Maryanne Mott; General Motors heiress) $80,000
TomKat Charitable Trust (Tom Steyer, San Francisco) $75,000
Marisla Foundation (Anne Getty Earhart; oil heiress) $60,000
Organic Valley FAFO $25,000
Firedoll Foundation $25,000
Boston Foundation $20,000
New World Foundation (in support of Navdanya) $20,000
GAIA Fund (San Francisco, CA) $20,000
Conservation & Preservation Charities of America $15,787
San Francisco Foundation $15,000
California Healthcare Foundation $10,000
Gardner Grout Foundation (Los Angeles, CA) $10,000
Rockefeller Foundation (matching grant) $7,500
Roy A. Hunt Foundation (Pittsburgh, PA) $7,500
Silicon Valley Community Foundation $7,000
Community Foundation of Western North Carolina $5,000 (Los Angeles, CA) $5,000
Neda Nobari Foundation (Wilmington, DE) $5,000
Benjamin J. Rosenthal Foundation (Deerfield, IL) $3,000
RSF Social Finance (San Francisco, CA) $1,500

Based on this list, several things are clear: The Hawaii anti-GMO effort was never a “grassroots movement,” but instead is financed almost entirely by outsiders; corporate America is well represented, underscoring the lie that the anti-GMO movement is anti-corporate or a David vs Goliath fight; and a handful of philanthropists are exerting undue influence over public policy related to GMOs and pesticides in the U.S. and Hawaii

Without recurring funding from Ceres, the Zimmerman Foundation (connected with the Maharishi folks in Iowa), the Rockefeller gals, Maryanne Mott and Anne Getty Earhart, who also donated to Councilman Gary Hooser's campaign, CFS would be very hard up.  Though CFS claims to represent tens of thousands of people, it gets virtually no money from the general public.

To sum it up: An elite group of maverick ideologues have declared war on biotechnology. We know who they are. We know they manage their private philanthropies unilaterally; they aren't accountable to governing boards. And we know that none of them represent a credible, science-based constituency.

Yet folks like Rep. Kaniela Ing remain oblivious to this influence.
In a recent email, Ing noted that one year ago, Maui County voters passed a GMO moratorium. He went on to complain that the Maui County Council “had the legal duty to enforce the law once the public had spoken.”

How can it possibly be the Council's legal duty to enforce a law that was struck down by a federal judge?

Ing, who is drumming up donations to “continue fighting big biotech interests,” promises to introduce a "Homerule bill that will clearly delegate power to regulate agriculture to the Counties." He then concludes, fully missing the irony, with this:

Today's discussion on the future of agriculture should not be decided by three companies.  No, the future of our islands should be controlled by the people who live on it, who live from it.

So if you actually believe your own rhetoric, Rep. Ing, why aren't you also fighting the influence exerted by the elites who fund the mainland advocacy groups that are desperately striving to control agriculture in the Islands?


for life said...

Looks like Ing is filling his pockets like Hooser is.....we need to vote them OUT, as they do not work for us..but for the rich and the corporations that fill their pockets......Thanks a lot Joan for this eye opener and for all you do for us...

Anonymous said...

Is that the same Zimmerman family as who decimated a Burmese teak forest to build their oversized house and dug up Iwi and tried to get away without contacting SHPD and put up a sea wall and built their obscene house on the beach at Makua?

Unknown said...

I find it really sad that a state representative who is responsible to delivering impartial decisions based on evidence for his constituents want to do the exact opposite. How can he want to put his constituency out of a job in the name of raising money? These people talk about aloha and pono but sure don't show it when they level unfounded accusations at their own people. I'm sure Ing has his roots in the very plantations himself but want to destroy those who are using those lands to feed their families. It's one thing to aloha the aina but where's the aloha for the people?

Joan Conrow said...

Yes, 10:30 a.m., it is the same Zimmerman family.

Anonymous said...

And how much money do the chemical companies bring to the table. The grassroots combined with CFS and PAN versus the 5 multi billion dollar chemcos? Like bringing a knife to a gunfight.

Joan Conrow said...

There are at least two problems with your comparison, 11:32. The first is that groups claiming to be nonprofit and working for the public good are able to wield far more influence, and gain much more access to the media (think Civil Beat) than corporations. That has been proven time and again, when corporations outspend the supposed nonprofits and still lose. The second is that you're entirely missing the point. Groups like CFS and PAN claim that they are fighting outside influence when they are actually engaged in that very activity, with far less transparency than the corporations. And let's just leave the grassroots out of it, since as I pointed out, the "grassroots" movement behind these groups is negligible, if not non-existent.

Anonymous said...

The grassroots are real Joan. CFS and PAN came in to help and support the grassroots once they were established and growing. Believe me, I was there. The grassroots movement especially on Kauai and Maui is real and it is growing. And yes, we are thankful for the help and support CFS, PAN and Earth Justice bring to the table.

Anonymous said...

So these environmental, sustainability elitists are funded by big oil and gas-guzzling car producers. Any irony there?

Joan Conrow said...

Do you realize how ludicrous it sounds, 11:52, for an Anonymous commenter to say "believe me?" Don't forget I also "was there" and saw the pathetic turn out for GMO Free Kauai events. They didn't get any sizable crowd until CFS showed up with Vandana Shiva. And if it's "real and growing" why did anti-GMO candidates fare so dismally in the Kauai election?

Anonymous said...

The anti turnout at opening of the Legislature earlier this year was laughable.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 11:52!!!! People who believe in the cause will donate when money is needed. Like me, i will donate $20, that's all i can afford. I also donate another $50 to the Salvation Army because i believe in what they do. Thankfully there are some very rich who believe in the cause, which the grassroots group are thankful for. The election had nothing to do with the anti/pro gmo movements, it had to do with who knows who. Joan, you've been here a while, don't you understand how people vote on Kauai? You related to any politician and had to get your family and friends on board? If you are, you would understand.

Anonymous said...

12:57 - I think it's YOU who doesn't understand elections. What happened to all those voters who cast a ballot for Jay, Tim and Gary in 2012, but didn't in 2014? I'm sure all their family and friends still voted for them. But others fled in droves for some reason.

Anonymous said...

Let's see here ... The biggest of the deep pockets funding the Center for Food Safety (CFS)is the Ceres money of Kent Whealy and Judith Kern. $1,065,000 in one year. That's splashing the pot, John Malkovich style. And Kent and Judith wen get one big mahalo from CFS director Andrew Kimbrell at the Kauai rally in January 2013. He wen thank 'em for "all they do." Cuz Kent and Judy was in the audience that day. Watching their money pay for Andrew and Vandana. And Uncle Walter, too! Yup, they each gave Uncle Walter $6,000, max out contribution, in 2012 wen Walter wen run for O.H.A. Even the Ceres attorney from Milwaukee wen give Walter money! Cuz if you one attorney from Milwaukee, you cannot sleep at night unless you support Walter for O.H.A. Plus - try wait - the guy from Genentech. Give'em. Genentech give to Walter, too! And Genentech wen develop the first bioengineered drug evah! – recombinant human insulin – with Eli Lilly and Company. That's like ironic, eh? And grassroots, too! Very Silicon Valley grassroots.

Anonymous said...

Tim, Gary and Jay each had different dynamics going that contributed to their poor showings. None of them campaigned at all. Minimal sign holding and that's about it. Plus Tim and Jay both had/have serious health issues. The other 4 worked their collective ass off. This is how elections are won and lost. 2491 gets lots of undeserved credit for the results. Yes the chemical companies, the chamber of commerce and the west side dominated unions were organized and united against Tim, Jay and Gary. But bottom line is the candidates that worked very hard did well and those that did not work hard either lost or did poorly.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, but I would bet money that those trust babies like Whealy, Schmidt, Zimmerman, Rockefeller, etc. all inherited their wealth rather than earn it as did their ancestors. People who are smart don't fall for the bullshit and lies of the Anti-GMO crowd, but wealthy detached trust beneficiaries go for it every time. You can tell them anything and they'd believe it because education and personal research is WORK...something they have no experience with.

Anonymous said...

3:28 Fistee Hooser and Timmy "Ricecooker-sue the County) Bynum were panting like frigid poodles in heat during the election campaigns. Jay was mute.
Even Gary's boy Dylan campaigned like a junkyard Doberman. To say Gary and Tim didn't campaign is a flat out lie.
This year Da Hoos will campaign super hard.. His grandiose plans of becoming a national anti-GMO paid leader are zilch. So he must keep this yob. He has the Garden Island in his pocket, so his campaign will be easy. The GI loves to put up Da Hoos' picture and quote his every nuance. What is up with that?
I like the Council we have, but it sure would be a good thing if they addressed the issues. 4 good guys in a circle jerk.
Their focus on icing JoAnn out of questioning the Council testifiers is disturbing. They should let the old gal get her jollies.
To ice JoAnn in order to streamline the meetings is one thing, but the meetings are generally useless anyway.
Fix the roads, do zoning changes to get housing, cut the budget, cut taxes, cut County expenses....Mel, you have the power to do good. Do it.

Anonymous said...

Mel has the power. Hell Ross has the power. But neither have the expertise or inherent talent to do more than chest thumping self righteous indignation.

Anonymous said...

@4:54 am

Totally agree with your comment, "do zoning changes to get housing " for the younger generation. The future of our children are in the hands of the Council.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the current council is up to the challenge. We live on an isolated island, heavily dependent on funding from the outside - tourists, imported food, school meals, medicare, medicaid, state funding.

If you have big dreams, this isn't the place to be. You have to choose to be here and live with what that reality is, with all its limitations. It's not mainland. It can't be. We're on a little rock in the Pacific Ocean. Don't like it? Get out.

Anonymous said...

Nice piece Joan,

Always follow the money....

Anonymous said...

5:38 You just a sore loser, the Council is now way way way better than the 5-2 council last year that yanked the 12 year old Real Property Tax Cap that was at least predictable, gave their fellow Councilman Tim Bynum some $300,000 settlement on a petty case, and most importantly passed an INVALID Bill 2491 that tore our Garden Island apart.